*Source: DTN News / Defense Media (NSI News Source Info) PARIS, France - July 29, 2009: France has sent three Tiger attack helicopters to Afghanistan, marking the first operational deployment of the aircraft, the ministry of defense said. "On July 26, three Tiger combat helicopters arrived at Kabul airport by Antonov 124," the ministry said in a posting on its Web site. The EC665 Tiger helicopter is being developed for France and Germany in three configurations, UHT multi-role fire support for the German Army and HAD multi-role combat and HAP combat support for the French Army. Tiger is being built by Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the EADS (European Aeronautics Defence and Space) company formed by DaimlerChrysler Aerospace of Germany, Aerospatiale Matra of France and CASA of Spain. A deployment of the Tiger aircraft has been long awaited after a deadly ambush by insurgents last August, which brought criticism on the French government for what was seen as inadequate resources for French troops despatched to Afghanistan. The Tiger aircraft, in the hélicoptère d'appui et de protection (HAP) version, will be used for armed reconnaissance and fire support for ground troops, the ministry said. The aircraft are expected to be operational in a few weeks, said a video clip produced by the ministry and ECPAD, the ministry's audiovisual production arm. The three Tiger helicopters, equipped with a chin mounted 30 mm gun, will boost the coalition air assets, to which France contributes three Caracal EC725 combat search and rescue aircraft and three Gazelle "Viviane" light reconnaissance helicopters, based in Kabul. The 5th regiment of combat helicopters, based in Pau, southern France, will operate the Tigers. France has ordered a first batch of 40 Tigers out of a planned 80 units from EADS Eurocopter. In the Aug. 18 ambush in the Uzbeen valley last year, the French forces relied on air support from U.S. AC-130 and F-16 aircraft, with surveillance from a Predator UAV.
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